I’ve said it before and will restate that bassist/composer Michael Bates possesses the goods to make a notable difference within the progressive-jazz community. With his third date as a leader, the artist continues to inject his extremely broad musical vernacular into a composite methodology. As the total listening experience is akin to sitting through an action-packed adventure flick amid all the shadowy episodes and rapidly-advancing sub-plots. And it is somewhat appropriate that Bates’ third outing as a leader would be presented by cutting-edge trumpeter, composer and idea man, Dave Douglas’ Greenleaf record label.
The bassist pulls out the proverbial stops during the opening piece titled "Great Exhibition," featuring trumpeter Russ Johnson and Quinsin Nachoff’s contrapuntal dialogues. Add to that, the rhythm section’s off-kilter pulse and the segmented thematic excursions by the band, where the hornists delve into complex unison phrasings and more. Here and throughout, Bates parlays his complex, yet highly listenable compositional frameworks, while incorporating variances in timbre amid an abundance of polytonal muses.
They mix it up while at times throttling back the rhythmic aspects. While the quartet generates some hyper-mode free-bop on "Machinery," abetted by an unlikely and brief injection of a German dancehall motif. Then on "Marching," Bates provides the fluid foundation for the soloists triumphant choruses, complemented by a few bars of knock-down, drag-out phrasings and drummer Jeff Davis’ crashing cymbals.
Bates doesn’t seem anywhere close to running out of fertile musical ideas. If the best is yet to come, I can’t wait to here his next outing. Regardless, this masterful exposition discloses previously undetected colors, sounds and mini-motifs with each subsequent listen. He attains the best of many musical worlds via his nouveau assault on the roads frequently traversed.